It’s now time for our 35th annual Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering, held at the Medora, N.D., Community Center, May 29-30. It doesn’t seem that long ago, but like my good friend, Quincy Quinn said of his dad’s famous sayings, “Time flies – pretty soon it’ll be fly time.”
It’s extremely rewarding to reminisce back to all the great memories and friendships bonded of local, regional and national cowboy poets and singers that have come across our stage and, most importantly, the hundreds and hundreds of folks that have attended and supported us over the years. We are a large, wide spread family of many states and Canada.
The camaraderie is priceless. I’m proud to say that we blew right through the 2020 season, while the rest of the world was shut down with COVID-19. Folks and performers were just simply glad to get out and be normal again. It isn’t for just cowboys and cowboy cowgirls. It doesn’t matter what profession or walk of life folks inhabit, when you get to visiting with them, their heritage ties into it. They may have been raised in that environment or their parents or grandparents were and they seem to have a longing to stay connected. The songs, poems and stories that come across the stage are simple, honest and real.
It’s especially rewarding to witness the “newcomers” each year. Our history shows when someone is performing that they usually have an “entourage” of friends and relatives in the audience supporting them. More than likely one of those supporters will be on stage the next year sharing their life experiences in rhyme – it’s contagious.
I’ve sat on a few boards and committees at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nev., and the biggest concern always arose that there were no young folks following the tradition and fear of its demise in the near future. I was always quick to point out that at our regional gathering back home, we get 35- to 65-year-old “rookies” most every year, writing their first cowboy poems or songs.
My take on it is that when you’re in your youthful prime “cutting a wide swath,” you couldn’t care less about recording it. As a person reaches middle age they become more aware of their past and don’t want to lose it. My dad always said, “The good old days was when you were young.” I tell them, “You have to make history before you are ready to record it.” They’ll be along as they get older.
Here’s a personal example I received from this very “Badlands Bull” column reader. His daughter, Teena, e-mailed his musings.
By Allen Thompson
Getting Farm & Ranch Guide for many years
Read some things that cause real tears
It was like a really sad song
A surprise to me, Rodney Nelson was gone.
First thing I look for, “Up Sims Creek”
He always wrote things cool and neat
A little humor, a little sad
Always good, never was bad
Forget the advertising and old machinery
What I liked was some cowboy funnery.
The new Farm & Ranch Guide came today
I’m wondering what my pencil will say
In Medora many years ago
My wife and I saw Bill Lowman, Cowboy Poet Show.
Since then, my wife has passed away
Think about her and cowboy poetry almost every day
Wanted to go to the Elko, listen to the poet greats
There was always something to do, so I would wait.
Now, I’ll wait with pride
And read it in Farm & Ranch Guide
I know it won’t get dull
I’ll be reading Badlands Bull.
That’s what it is all about – real people given a chance to share, record and preserve our rural culture. Thank You.